As we near the start of training camp on July 30, we'll preview each position for the San Diego Chargers. We continue with a look at the Tight Ends.
Antonio Gates –What more can we say at this point about one of the greatest players we've ever had the pleasure of watching? Gates is only eight touchdowns away from passing Tony Gonzales for the most by a tight end in NFL history. It would be the latest accomplishment for the tight end that owns every single major receiving record in Chargers history. The 36-year old is the franchise leader in career receptions (844), receiving yards (10,644) and touchdown catches (104).
Hunter Henry –While Gates is under contract for another two seasons, it's no secret that the Bolts drafted Henry to be his heir apparent for years to come. The 6-5, 250-pound second round pick out of Arkansas was one of the stars of the offseason program. He lived up to the hype after hauling in 116 passes for 1,661 yards and nine touchdowns in 38 career games at Arkansas. He did not register a single drop last season as he was a consensus first team All-American and John Mackey Award Winner for the nation's top tight end with career-highs in receptions (51) and yards (739).
Jeff Cumberland –The Chargers signed the former Jet to a one-year deal in early April. He spent the first seven years of his career in New York after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois. The 6-4, 260-pounder has caught 86 passes for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns in 65 career games, establishing himself as a dual-threat TE.
Sean McGrath –After retiring from the NFL in 2014, McGrath returned to the NFL and spent most of last season on the team's practice squad. A 6-5, 259-pound tight end who began his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, he left the league after a breakout season in 2013 when he appeared in all 16 games with nine starts, catching 26 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
Asante Cleveland –The Bolts claimed Cleveland off waivers from the New England Patriots just prior to last year's season finale. Praise by the coaching staff as one of the most explosive players off the line of scrimmage in the run game, he is nearly impossible for defenders to shake after he latches on. Cleveland will look to make further improvement in the passing game to evolve into a complete tight end.
Tim Semisch –At 6-8, 267-pounds with raw athleticism and speed rare for his size, Semisch is one of the most intriguing players on San Diego's roster. Still, he is an extremely raw prospect who played in 49 career games at Northern Iowa, catching 10 passes for 100 yards and three TD.
*Matt Weiser- *An undrafted free agent out of Buffalo, Weiser has a lot of experience playing in a pro-style offense that asked him to do a lot of the same things the Chargers need him to do. A college teammate of Branden Oliver, coaches laud his work ethic, toughness and intelligence.
Keep an Eye On…
Ricky Henne: In my opinion, there is no doubt Antonio Gates is destined for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. After inking a two-year deal that should see him finish his career wearing the only uniform he's ever known, I'm relishing every chance I get to watch number 85 in action. From his trademark pivot routes to the way he interacts with Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen and so on, we should all soak up every moment we get to watch Gates while we can. At the same time, I'd be remised if I didn't mention Hunter Henry. Universally regarded as the top tight end in this year's draft, the Arkansas product lived up to the hype this offseason so I look forward to seeing more out of the rookie.
Hayley Elwood: While it's always exciting to see Antonio Gates connect with Philip Rivers, there are so many tight ends on the Chargers roster that will get their chances to shine over the duration of camp. It will be interesting to see how new additions like Asante Cleveland and Jeff Cumberland fit into the Chargers system while rookie Hunter Henry continues his rapport with number 17.